London — The UK will need over 11 million electric vehicles by 2030 and 30 million by 2040 to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to National Grid's latest future energy scenarios published July 27.
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Under an ambitious Leading the Way scenario, by 2050 up to 80% of households with an EV will be "smart charging" their car outside of the evening peak period, while 45% of homes would actively help balance the grid via vehicle-to-grid technology, offering up to 38 GW of flexible electricity, the transmission system operator said.
"Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is achievable. However, it requires immediate action across all key technologies and policy areas, and full engagement across society and end consumers," National Grid said.
At least 3 GW of wind and 1.4 GW of solar need to be built every year from now until 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality, with zero marginal cost generation providing up to 71% of generation output in 2030, and up to 80% in 2050, it said.
The analysis shows that, with substantial deployment of renewables and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, energy system emissions can be negative by 2030.
This would require 40 GW of offshore wind capacity and 3.6 GW bioenergy generation with carbon capture and storage, supported by non-traditional sources of flexibility such as demand side response and storage.
Energy efficiency of housing also features strongly across the scenarios.
"2050 could see homes no longer using natural gas boilers and 20 million heat pumps instead, with as many 8 million homes actively managing their heating demands by storing heat and shifting their use outside of peak periods," the TSO said.
National Grid's head of strategy, Mark Herring, said although the scenarios were not firm predictions, over 600 industry experts had been consulted to support the findings.
"Across all scenarios, we see a growth in renewable energy generation, including significant expansion in installed offshore wind capacity. There is a widespread uptake in domestic electric vehicles, and growth and investment in hydrogen and carbon capture technologies too," Herring said.
Commenting on the report, Justin Bowden, National Secretary of the GMB general trade union, said a net zero target would have to be paid for out of general taxes and "not loaded into citizens' energy bills as is the case now."
"UK taxpayers will not stand for a green poll tax. Neither will they pay thousands of pounds, nor suffer the disruption to their houses, to rip out gas central heating systems in order to fit electric heat pumps that cost them more to run," he said.
Green hydrogen and new nuclear had to be part of the mix, Bowden said, or net zero would fail.
"Blending hydrogen into the gas grid must be accelerated as the next step to decarbonizing the heating of 24 million homes; and the go-ahead given now for new nuclear power stations at Sizewell in Suffolk, Moorside in Cumbria and Bradwell in Essex," he said.
UK FUTURE ENERGY SCENARIOS: INSTALLED CAPACITY (GW)
Note: four scenarios shown - Consumer Transformation, System Transformation, Leading the Way, Steady Progression
Source: National Grid